Semestre européen et recommandations-pays : le logement abordable, une préoccupation européenne grandissante.
Dans le cadre du semestre européen, cycle européen de coordination de politiques économiques de la gouvernance économique européenne, la question du logement abordable est particulièrement soulevée.
En effet, la communication de la Commission européenne du 5 juin dernier précise que « l’évolution du marché du logement peut avoir une incidence sur la stabilité financière et, dès lors, nécessiter une intervention dans certains États membres. Le logement est souvent le principal actif détenu par les ménages et, dans le même temps, les prêts liés au logement représentent une grande part du total des prêts dans l’économie.
En outre, la pénurie de logements adéquats et abordables constitue un problème croissant dans plusieurs États membres ».
La place de la question du logement au sein du semestre européen devient prépondérante avec 19 pays concernés dans les recommandations.
La Commission européenne note l’augmentation des prix du logement et de son corolaire la difficulté d’accès, notamment dans les grandes villes européennes.
Même l’Allemagne est concernée, alors que son marché locatif a longtemps été détendu : « le logement est devenu moins abordable en Allemagne. Depuis 2015, les loyers et les prix des maisons ont augmenté plus vite que leur moyenne à long terme, en particulier dans les grandes villes. En 2017, pour 20 % des personnes âgées de 65 ans et plus en Allemagne, la charge constituée par les coûts du logement était excessive (les coûts totaux du logement représentaient plus de 40 % de leur revenu disponible), alors qu’elle ne concerne que 10 % des Européens de la même tranche d’âge.
Pour la population aux revenus les plus bas, le taux de surcharge des coûts du logement dépassait de 10 points de pourcentage la moyenne de l’UE (35,3 %).
Les pouvoirs publics ont réagi en adoptant certaines mesures, dont un plafonnement des loyers, qui limite les hausses (Mietpreisbremse), un régime d’aide pour l’achat de nouveaux biens immobiliers (Baukindergeld) ainsi qu’une modification de la loi fondamentale pour permettre aux instances fédérales d’aider financièrement à la construction de logements sociaux.
La mise à disposition de nouveaux logements reste toutefois bien en deçà de la demande et est nettement inférieure à l’objectif des pouvoirs publics, à savoir 375 000 par an. Des mesures supplémentaires peuvent être nécessaires, comme l’accélération de la construction de logements sociaux, l’amélioration de l'offre de transport et la réforme de la réglementation relative à l’aménagement du territoire et à la construction ».
Les conséquences de ce manque de logement qui s’accompagne de l’augmentation généralisée, sauf en Finlande, du nombre de sans-abris, pousse la Commission à aller jusqu’à formuler des recommandations d’investissements dans le logement abordable et le logement social.
Les recommandations faites à l’Irlande illustrent parfaitement ce changement d’approche de la Commission européenne qui ne voit plus ce type d’investissement comme une dépense ayant un impact sur les finances publiques mais comme une nécessité :
« la persistance d'une offre insuffisante, associée à une augmentation de la demande, continue à alimenter les hausses des prix de l'immobilier. Bien qu'il semble que les prix n'étaient pas surévalués en 2017, l'accessibilité économique est un sujet de préoccupation. Les pénuries d’approvisionnement en logements touchent également le logement social en raison de l’insuffisance des investissements et des constructions au cours des dix dernières années. Alors que la demande annuelle est estimée à environ 72 000 unités, seules 10 000 unités devraient être livrées en 2019.
17 000 personnes supplémentaires doivent bénéficier d’un soutien du système irlandais d’aide financière au logement (le «Housing Assistance Payment or Rental Accommodation Scheme»), mais cela risque d’aggraver la hausse des loyers sur le marché locatif privé, où l’offre est déjà soumise à des contraintes. Un grand nombre de logements sociaux sont sous occupés, notamment dans la région de Dublin, en partie en raison de pratiques dépassées en matière de succession.
Le dosage inadéquat des catégories de logements sociaux fournis, ainsi que le nombre très limité de logements abordables et de locations intégrant les coûts, sont autant de facteurs qui aggravent encore la situation. Cela s’est traduit par une augmentation constante du nombre de personnes et de familles vivant dans des logements d’urgence, tandis que les chiffres de sans-abri ont atteint de nouveaux sommets en février 2019 ».
Au total, en 2019, la Commission européenne propose de focaliser les investissements dans le logement, abordable et/ou social dans 6 pays : Allemagne, Irlande, Lettonie, Slovaquie, Luxembourg et Royaume Uni.
C’est un vrai changement de cap au niveau de l'exécutif européen.
La France ne fait pas l’objet de recommandations propre au logement, cependant la Commission souligne les besoins d’investissements en matière d’efficacité énergétique des bâtiments : « c’est notamment le cas dans le secteur de la rénovation des logements, qui représente une part importante du déficit total d’investissements pour le climat, dans la mesure où la plus grande partie du parc immobilier est ancien et compte 7 à 8 millions de «passoires thermiques» (soit environ 20 % du nombre total de logements) ».
Ce cycle 2019 du semestre européen montre bien l’évolution opérée dans le cadre de la gouvernance économique européenne par la Commission européenne, plus en adéquation avec l’ensemble des autres politiques européennes, grâce à une approche holistique, qui intègre pleinement le socle européen des droits sociaux et qui se traduit concrètement par des orientations budgétaires en termes d’investissements qui seront soutenues par la future politique de cohésion.
Ces recommandations doivent être prochainement adoptées par les Etats membres lors d’un Conseil européen afin de pouvoir être mises en œuvre lors du semestre national.
Pour en savoir plus :
Extraits du volet logement par Etat-membre
CSR 2019 June 2019
Part of the population has difficulty getting access to affordable housing.
Despite the Czech Republic being a transit country, the completion of the European transport networks, including TEN-T corridors, is far from being finalised. Suburban transport infrastructure also remains deficient, limiting housing affordability and people’s ability to commute to work.
Following several years of high growth, housing prices appear overvalued, particularly in the main urban areas. Housing price increases moderated, however, in 2018. Furthermore, despite a continued decline, the ratio of household debt to disposable income remains the highest in the EU. The share of mortgage loans with variable interest rates and deferred amortisation is gradually decreasing, but is still high. New macroprudential measures seem to have curbed the increase in new mortgage loans with very high debt-to-income and loan-to-value ratios. The Danish authorities have in recent years also activated the countercyclical capital buffer and implemented measures to increase the resilience of banks, and they have adopted a property tax reform (effective from 2021) to put an end to the procyclical property tax system. Nevertheless, the combination of very high loan-to-income ratios, high debt with high interest rate sensitivity and overvalued housing prices pose risks to economic and financial stability and thus continuous monitoring is warranted.
Low interest rates and the improved economic outlook have increased the overall volume of lending, especially through housing corporations (which provide a distinctive form of home ownership).
High investment needs also concern energy efficiency in buildings. This is particularly the case for the renovation of the housing sector, which accounts for a large share of the total climate investment gap, as the majority of the housing stock is old and contains 7 to 8 million thermal sieves (representing around 20% of the total number of housing).
Housing in Germany has become less affordable. Since 2015, both rents and house prices have grown faster than their long-term averages, in particular in large cities. In 2017, 20% of the people aged 65 and over in Germany faced an excessive housing cost burden (i.e., the total housing cost represented more than 40% of their disposable income), compared to 10% of Europeans aged 65 and over. For the population with the lowest income, the housing cost overburden rate was 10 percentage points above the EU average of 35.3%. The government reacted with certain measures, including a ‘price brake’ restricting rent increases (Mietpreisbremse), a support scheme to buy new property (Baukindergeld), as well as a change of basic law to enable the federal level to financially support the construction of social housing. Nevertheless, the completion of new dwellings remains considerably below demand and well below the government target of 375 000 per year. Further measures may be necessary, such as accelerating the construction of social housing
Focus investment-related economic policy on education; research and innovation; digitalisation and very-high capacity broadband; sustainable transport as well as energy networks and affordable housing, taking into account regional disparities.
The share of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion is falling. There has been a clear shift from social benefits towards work-related family support and in-kind benefits, which are however not sufficiently targeted to the poor. While homeownership subsidies have expanded, there has been no improvement in the supply of social housing.
Years of low investment after the economic bust are taking their toll on the availability of affordable and social housing and of appropriate infrastructure in the areas of clean transport and energy, water and ultrafast broadband, which in turn pose barriers to business investment. Moreover, greenhouse gas emissions from road transport have increased strongly in the last 5 years. Improved infrastructure, combined with spatial planning, could be a critical enabler for improving the housing supply, increasing private investment, boosting productivity growth, and ensuring balanced regional economic development. Future-proof connectivity and sufficient digital skills remain crucial for domestic companies to effectively utilise digital technology and for a thriving domestic information and communications technology sector. Significant challenges remain in relation to access to ultrafast broadband, in particular in rural areas. More infrastructure investment in clean energy, clean and public transport and water services as well as intensified efforts in the field of decarbonisation, energy efficiency, renewable energy and the circular economy would help Ireland in its transition towards a low-carbon and environmentally resilient economy.
Persistent supply shortages, coupled with increasing demand, continue to fuel rises in property prices. Although prices did not seem overvalued in 2017, affordability is becoming a concern. Housing supply shortages are also affecting social housing due to insufficient investment and builds over the last decade. While annual demand is estimated at about 72 000 units, just 10 000 are planned for delivery in 2019. A further 17 000 persons are to be assisted through Ireland's Housing Assistance Payment or Rental Accommodation Scheme, but this risks exacerbating rent increases in the private rental market where supply is already constrained. A large number of social homes are under-occupied, notably in the Dublin area, in part due to outdated succession practices. The inadequate mix in the types of social houses provided together with the very limited amount of affordable and cost-rental accommodation are factors further aggravating the situation. This has resulted in a steady rise in the number of people and families living in emergency accommodation with homelessness figures reaching new highs in February 2019.
Focus investment-related economic policy on low carbon and energy transition, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable transport, water, digital 10 SWD(2019) 1006 final. EN 8 EN infrastructure and affordable and social housing, taking into account regional disparities. Implement measures, including those in the Future Jobs strategy, to diversify the economy and improve the productivity of Irish firms – small and medium enterprises in particular - by using more direct funding instruments to stimulate research and innovation and by reducing regulatory barriers to entrepreneurship.
Access to affordable and adequate housing is also a challenge and the provision of social services remains underdeveloped and fragmented.
The share of people facing severe housing deprivation is among the highest in Europe (15.2% vs 4.0% in average in 2017 in the European Union) and social housing is scarce. Investment is needed to improve the provision of affordable housing.
Focus investment-related economic policy on innovation, provision of affordable housing, transport notably on its sustainability, resource efficiency and energy efficiency, energy interconnections and on digital infrastructure, taking into account regional disparities.
Active inclusion strategies for vulnerable groups are more effective when they combine better adequacy of minimum income and pension schemes, labour market activation and enhanced provision of social services, including childcare and social housing.
Insufficient housing supply may negatively affect Luxembourg’s attractiveness. Its strong housing demand remains driven by population growth, favourable financing conditions and a large cross-border workforce. Housing supply and investment appear insufficient, constrained by insufficient land availability and low housing density, largely due to a lack of incentives for landowners to build new housing or to sell. The supply of social housing also appears insufficient and points to a need for significant investment to alleviate rising tensions in the housing market
Focus economic policy related to investment on fostering digitalisation and innovation, stimulating skills development, improving sustainable transport, and increasing housing supply, including by increasing incentives and lifting barriers to build.
The environmental and social costs of the housing boom require closer monitoring. Circular economy principles should be applied to the disposal of construction waste to limit its environmental impact. The economic and social consequences of the increase in the cost of housing require attention.
Dutch households combine large illiquid assets in housing and pensions with high household debt. Long balance sheets make households vulnerable to financial and economic shocks. High household debt is explained by generous tax relief on mortgage interest payments, but also by a lack of a well-functioning middle segment on the rental market and high compulsory pension savings. A key challenge in addressing high household indebtedness lies in the housing market, where the rigidities and distortive incentives that have built up over decades shape the patterns of housing financing and sectoral savings. Since 2012, a series of measures has been implemented that partly addresses this. The announced acceleration of the reduction in mortgage interest tax deductibility has been put into law and will start in 2020. Despite this, the tax relief on mortgage payments remains generous and continues to result in a substantial debt bias for households. At the same time, the private rental market, as the only non-subsidised segment, remains underdeveloped accounting for 13% of total dwellings. The lack of a well-functioning middle segment on the rental market encourages households to buy rather than rent, leading to high debt-to-income ratios and financial vulnerability
A simultaneous reform of housing market institutions and the pension system has the potential to shorten household balance sheets, and make the household sector less vulnerable to financial and economic shocks with beneficial effects for macro-economic resilience and economic growth
Reduce the debt bias for households and the distortions in the housing market, including by supporting the development of the private rental sector.
Housing deprivation is the highest in the EU and is detrimental to social inclusion. Housing policies are being decentralised without a strategic framework, and poor communities often lack financial resources.
Other bottlenecks concern access for disadvantaged groups, in particular for Roma, as well as people with disabilities and people that suffer from homelessness and housing exclusion, to healthcare, long-term care, social housing and other essential services. An integrated approach is essential in order to foster social inclusion for these groups.
Focus investment-related economic policy on healthcare, research and innovation, transport, notably on its sustainability, digital infrastructure, energy efficiency, competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises, and social housing, taking into account regional disparities. Increase the use of quality-related and lifecycle cost criteria in public procurement operations
While the economic recovery continues to curb poverty, the situation calls for investment in social inclusion policies and social infrastructure (e.g. social housing) in order to attain inclusive growth. In addition, Spain faces specific territorial cohesion challenges, such as acute depopulation and ageing in certain rural areas.
Structural bottlenecks for housing supply persist and construction output has weakened. Although steps have been taken in recent years in the macro prudential field to address mortgage debt growth, the impact so far appears limited. Key policy gaps remain, particularly in relation to tax incentives for home ownership and the functioning of housing supply and the rental market.
While house prices declined in late 2017 and have since been broadly stable, this follows a long period of strong price rises, and valuations remain well above economic fundamentals. Key issues include tax incentives favouring home ownership and mortgage debt, and accommodative credit conditions coupled with still relatively low mortgage repayment rates. Despite a significant increase in new construction over the past five years, a shortage remains, particularly of affordable homes around major cities. New housing supply failed to reach projected near-term needs, estimated at about 90 000 new homes per year for 2018-2020. This shortage is linked to structural inefficiencies, such as limited competition in the construction sector due to barriers to entry for small and foreign firms and the ability of large developers to control land resources. The housing stock is not used efficiently. In the rental market, belowmarket rents create lock-in and ‘insider/outsider’ effects. In the owner-occupancy market, capital gains taxes reduce homeowner mobility. The housing shortage makes it harder for people to change jobs and can contribute to intergenerational inequality. The Swedish authorities are continuing to gradually implement the ‘22-point plan’ to increase residential construction and improve the efficiency of the housing sector. So far, there have been no concrete policy steps to liberalise tight rental market regulations and revise the capital tax on owner-occupied homes, although in January 2019 the new government announced plans to introduce reforms in these areas, subject to preparatory inquiry work.
Maintaining investments in transport infrastructure can contribute to improved labour mobility, regional cohesion and housing market and foster Sweden's long-term productivity growth. The government has announced considerable investments in transport infrastructure through the national plan for infrastructure 2018-2029 to upgrade the different transport modes (in particular railway and road). The plan contains major investments to develop the railway system, promoting the switch in goods transport from roads to railways, thus also helping to reduce emissions. Maintaining high levels of investment in research and development, favourable framework conditions and a broader innovation base are key to securing Sweden's position as innovation leader. Sweden's innovation model has traditionally relied on a limited number of large, globally active, technology companies. It would be important to create an environment that also nurtures the innovation potential of SMEs and startups. Sweden's innovation capacity could also be further improved by increased collaboration between academia and SMEs.
Address risks related to high household debt by gradually reducing the tax deductibility of mortgage interest payments or increasing recurrent property taxes. Stimulate investment in residential construction where shortages are most pressing, in particular by removing structural obstacles to construction. Improve the efficiency of the housing market, including by introducing more flexibility in rental prices and revising the design of the capital gains tax
The United Kingdom has a persistent housing shortage. A post-crisis recovery in house building has lost momentum. Capacity constraints are emerging while residential construction remains below what is required to meet estimated demand. House prices and rents remain high, especially in areas of high housing demand, with signs of overvaluation. Significantly fewer young adults now own their own homes. The government is implementing a range of measures to boost housing supply. At the same time, the amount and location of land available for new housing remains limited by tight regulation of the land market, particularly around big towns and cities
Focus investment-related economic policy on research and innovation, housing, training and improving skills, sustainable transport and low carbon and energy transition, taking into account regional diversity.